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Is All Fair In Love And Tabloid Journalism?

Jul18

by

While Alice rounds out her vacation at the BlogHer conference, this week’s column is in the hands of Liz Gumbinner of Mom-101.
I have never been a big tabloid reader.
Oh, sure I can weigh in on an Olsen Twins debate at a cocktail party and I jones for an occasional CELEBRITIES! THEY PICK GUM OFF THEIR SHOES JUST LIKE US! fix on long plane rides. But mostly, I am That Woman, cozied up in the pedicure chair with the latest issue of Newsweek. As I understand it, my actions violate some sort of pedicure law, but I’m a rebel that way.
I do love Vanity Fair however, which serves up its celebrity dish with tasteful serif type, a judicious restraint in the number of exclamation points, and a side order of world-class fashion photography.
In other words, it helps me justify my gawking of the fancy people.
Reading VF’s recent interview with Angelina Jolie, I was extremely taken with a comment she made about celebrities today: “In my father’s generation, the product was 80 percent of what you were putting into the world, and your personal life was 20 percent. It now seems that 80 percent of the product I put out is silly, made-up stories and what I’m wearing.”
Case in point: I was totally wondering who made the dress she was in on the facing page.
As I came to the end of the magazine with my toenails not quite ready for the first slathering of Paris in the Pink, I did what anyone would do in my situation – I browsed US Weekly over the shoulder of the woman sitting next to me.
Holy celebrity trainwreck, batman.
The magazine, not surprisingly, featured the same stories that dominated the news this week. And by news I mean not news at all. Each headline revealed some juicy eye-catcher about Christie/Peter, Madonna/Guy, Alex/Cynthia, Madonna/Alex, Peter/His Hand, followed by lurid descriptions of Divorce! Anger! Betrayal! All courtesy of that ubiquitous source, “a friend of the couple…”
(Here I must just stop and say don’t worry, this is not leading to the overdone “how can we care about celebrities when there is a war going on?” discussion. Which – really. Please. I think everyone’s entitled to their diversions even, and perhaps especially, in serious times.)
Suddenly I felt very sad. For these couples. For their public humiliation over private matters. And most especially for their families. Because in each of these cases, each of these high-profile, PG-13, A-list divorces, there are young children involved.
My sense of empathy has increased a hundredfold since having children of my own. I can’t even watch SVU any longer, to say nothing of all those evening news magazine stories about abducted children and pedophilia cults. It’s all just too heart-wrenchingly painful for me. Similarly, when I think Christie Brinkley’s ten year-old daughter stumbling onto a tabloid headline describing her daddy’s $3,000 a month internet porn habit and penchant for 18 year-old girls, I want to run to each and every newsstand in the five boroughs and set the papers on fire. (Of course I’d like to set his genitals on fire too, but I digress.)
If you think about it, none of these stories are relevant to us, nor do they affect our lives in any tangible ways. But they do affect the children. It makes me feel sometime as if our hunger to know all trumps their need not to know all.
Indeed there are some celebs who I think invite the scrutiny, even revel in it. Madonna’s history of attention-grabbing inspired New York Magazine to describe her alleged A-Rod affair as having “the air of a publicity coup.”
If celebrities don’t draw any lines, certainly we can’t be expected to adhere to any either.
But what about when they do? What about when we hear reports of celebs begging the paparazzi, please, I’m with my kid…just leave us alone…
There’s a lot of talk about a journalist’s obligation to famous people when they’re parents. But what’s our obligation as consumers? Do we have one?
Do you feel any sort of parent-to-parent, no-lister-to-A-lister imperative not to support this stuff? Or is all fair when you’re a bold-faced name – an implicit agreement to take the bad with the good, the intense scrutiny with the red carpet invites. Maybe it’s a deal you make with the devil.
That devil being the media. That devil, sometimes being us.

About the author

Isabel Kallman

http://www.alphamom.com
Isabel Kallman is the founding mom of Alphamom.com.

Feel free to send nice emails to isabel[at]alphamom[dot]com.


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10 Responses to “Is All Fair In Love And Tabloid Journalism?”

  1. A Jul 18 at 8:45 am Reply Reply

    I think you raise an excellent point. Look what’s going on between Charlie Sheen and Denise Richards…constant pleas about trying to take their children’s benefit into consideration at all times, but everyone can clearly see this is a vicious and messy divorce, a relationship turned sour and a big ol’ he said she said catastrophe. Those poor girls must not know what to think of either parent right now.
    Celebrities are people too. They are just well known. Do they sign up for the media scrutinty? To some extent, yes, it is to be expected these days. But, the papparazzi are scandal whores. Look what they did to Princess Diana. That should have been lesson enough – she was not a just a celebrity, she was a beautiful, generous, loving human being. And the papparazzi had a hand in her untimely death.
    Celebrity children do not sign up for the scrutiny and exploitation that their parents endure as part of their so called career. If I woke up one morning and read that my dad was a perevert on the cover of US Weekly, I don’t know how I would behave. If I discoverd that my mother was cheating on my father with another married man, I don’t know what I would think about the allegation either.
    Celebrity journalism gives the media a horrible rep. Yes, the media is often a biased institution, but it is not all bad. I would love to see how paparazzi, US weekly editors etc would react if I began selling photographs of their children, and them with no make up on at the store, buying a pack of extra large condoms and a McDonalds Big Mac…

  2. elizasmom Jul 18 at 10:21 am Reply Reply

    I agree that everyone is entitled to their diversion even and because there’s a war, but I would argue that there are better diversions. Our obsession with celebrity is consuming our culture whole.
    The fault lies on all sides, I think — Christie Brinkley’s husband may be a %^&, but WHAT is she doing agreeing to such a public airing of their dirty laundry? Especially when there are kids who have to go to school and face their friends the next day? I think a lot of celeb whining about loss of privacy is disingenuous.
    That said, if we didn’t eat it up, the paps wouldn’t be there to play their part, so I think ultimately, the responsibility also needs to rest with us as consumers. My Zen instructor used to talk about how people behave like craven dogs around power and money, skulking around at the edges of influence being envious and wanting moremoremore, and I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to apply that imagery to the celebrity machine and us as consumers.

  3. Mallory Jul 18 at 2:34 pm Reply Reply

    Do I love tabloid gossip? Absolutely. Do I purchase/read it while in line at the grocery store? Under no circumstances, no compromise.
    It’s the only high-road, ethical choice I seem able to be absolute about.

  4. kim Jul 18 at 3:24 pm Reply Reply

    Wow, I don’t pay attention to any of that stuff, and probably wouldn’t be able to pick Angelina Jolie out of a lineup, but I really hadn’t thought of how those gossip mags would affect their children. I always kind of figured that the stars knew what they were getting into when they set out to become famous. But you’re right, their children had no choice, and should not be subjected to all the nastiness. It’s easy for me to look at the other shoppers in the grocery line instead of the rags, but if my eye caught a picture of my father on one of them, it would be pretty hard to ignore.
    So yeah, I think consumers do have an obligation to refuse to buy that sort of trash. Just like voters have an obligation to refuse to vote for politicians who engage in mudslinging to show them that we don’t like it. And this is going to happen any day now, right? Righhhht…

  5. Andrea K Jul 18 at 11:12 pm Reply Reply

    The “truth is stranger than fiction” draw of celebrity is hard to resist. They have themselves to blame for that part. I feel for their kids.
    The other part, quite frankly, is a business. And when it comes to money, most businesses couldn’t care less about a kid’s feelings. Come on, companies out there sell kids lead toys to make a buck! Think of how many people make a cut when a celeb is in the “news”: production companies, publications, photographers, publicists, the celebs themselves…
    The only way to make a change is to take away that market, and that means we have to decrease the demand. Don’t buy People at the grocery store, cancel your subscription to Us Weekly. Stop sneaking peeks at Perez Hilton.
    Kind of like a toddler tantrum, if we ignore it, it will stop. Otherwise, it’s rather disturbing.

  6. Little Read Hen Jul 23 at 1:16 pm Reply Reply

    My empathy for high profile tabloid fodder went up a frazzion times when I was in the middle of my own divorce in a small enough town that while having dinner (and yes, SHOCK, a beer) with a collegue someone I don’t know snapped a photo of me on his camera phone, sent it to my estranged husband, who proceeded to call me and scream over the phone for the better part of the weekend (Apparently, I bore a striking resemblence to Britany Spears and there was no way he would EVER EVER let me near HIS CHILD EVER AGAIN!). Awesome. Seriously, though, there is nothing like starring in your own tabloid mega-mello-drama for a year to develop a healthy dose of empathy for people who are totally scrutanized all the damn time because they chose a profession that puts them in the limelight.
    That being said, there are tons of actors and musicians and celebs who choose for whatever reason to live their lives in private and do not cultivate the celeb stuff. You’ve got to wonder what affect all the paparazzi influce has on the kids who are being raised with bodyguards and bullet proof glass in LA. Being famous before they are born for no reason other than their mother is pretty and talented or just famous. That, to me, is what is truly frightening.

  7. Insta-Mom Jul 23 at 3:36 pm Reply Reply

    I was bothered over all the press criticizing Christie Brinkley for wanting her divorce to be public. Do I think the kids should have been subjected to the dirt on their family? Of course not. But I also don’t think Brinkley should be crucified for making it public record. Because honestly, it wouldn’t have mattered if there weren’t a market for it. And the only reason that there’s a market for it is because the same people who criticized her also lap up the salaciousness of it all.
    I enjoy a fair bit of the gossip myself. But I also draw the line. I won’t read stories about Britney. I stopped reading about the Jen-Brad-Angelina mess when it started getting nasty. But it’s hard because we as a culture are so inundated with it. Even “hard news” programs cover the celebrity dirt now.
    I feel sorry for these parents, for their children. I applaud Julia Roberts for chewing out photographers when they get near her children. But I also have to consider what is feeding the obsession. It’s not going to stop until the audience for it goes away.

  8. Fairly Odd Mother Jul 24 at 7:00 am Reply Reply

    The most celebrity ‘news’ watching I can handle is E’s The Soup. The rest, especially the tabloids and Entertainment Tonight (and their ilk), make me feel icky. Plus, there are only so many hours in the day; do I really need to spend them reading about Madonna?
    But, I can watch SVU without issue.

  9. Heidi Jul 25 at 9:39 pm Reply Reply

    Totally agree that to make this go away we have to stop looking at it. Am I still looking at it? Yeah, sometimes.
    What about those pics where a celeb and the kids are not being harrassed, just photographed? I’m thinking of pics of Jennifer Garner and her daughter at a farmer’s market. Is it evil for me to like to look at that? Is it any different from me secretly staring at her and her daughter if I had happened to BE at that farmer’s market?
    I do feel for the kids whose parents have aired their dirty laundry in public, but I place the blame for that squarely where it belongs: on the parents.

  10. I am with you – once I became a parent, my sensitivity to all things child-related instantly heightened. SVU makes me nauseous. And every divorce rumor makes me cringe when children are involved. Kids are hurting and we are making it worse.
    But I do still look at the magazines every now and then, when I am can get away from blogging. And I feel guilty feeding the beast.
    I love it when people like Angelina Jolie turn the evil on its arse and use the money for good. I am impressed with that woman on quite a few counts.
    Along with the rest of the world, I wish that the paparazzi would leave the kids alone. The stars signed up for it. The kids didn’t.

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